Simon Round

In the long run, we joggers live longer

By Simon Round, August 28, 2008

This week, I've set myself a tough task - to find a cheerful, upbeat news story. What with the credit crunch, rising food and fuel prices, property values plummeting and unemployment on the way up again, it has been tough to find uplifting subjects for a column, particularly now the Olympics has finished.
However, against the odds I think I've managed to find a way to brighten up your weekend. But first a caveat - if you are a convinced couch potato you might as well stop reading now because there is nothing for you here.

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We win gold for excuses

By Simon Round, August 21, 2008
Israeli athletes have been attempting to explain their Olympic failure. Our favourite is gymnast Alexandr Shatilov's excuse: "This is the first time I've fallen like that."

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Kosher wine crime rises

By Simon Round, August 21, 2008

What is the most shoplifted item at the North Finchley branch of Waitrose? Well, amazingly, it is Palwin.
This information was divulged by the branch's manager to a customer attempting to find a bottle of the syrupy kiddush wine.

However, it is not middle-aged housewives feeling the credit crunch who are responsible for the Shabbat-wine crime wave, but rather the area's alcoholics, or "the dregs of society", as the manager poetically put it.

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New statesman loses plot

By Simon Round, August 21, 2008

The New Statesman has invited readers to vote for their favourite ideas for in-depth investigations. The magazine has opened a comment thread on its website so that readers can suggest ideas.

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Obama has a dream…

By Simon Round, August 21, 2008

What does the future president of the USA dream about?

Well, thanks to a new booklet called Jewels of Elul, we now know. The booklet is the brainchild of spiritual folk-rocker Craig Taubman, who wanted to mark the month of Elul when Jews look within themselves in preparation for the High Holy Days. So Taubman asked prominent Americans to disclose their dreams.
Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain both replied promptly. Dreamed Obama: "We must reclaim that basic American Dream for all Americans."

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A tip: never hunt for dinosaurs on a rainy day

By Simon Round, August 21, 2008

It's 7.45am - the summer holidays. I'm looking after my children, five-year-old Lucy and three-year-old Alex. I have two main problems. I am outnumbered and it is raining outside. A quick look at the weather forecast confirms that heavy and frequent showers will merge into a continuous downpour.

I call my mother. "How do you feel about the Natural History Museum today? I bet no one else has had that idea." She swallows hard and agrees to come with us.

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See the rich slum it? Works for me

By Simon Round, August 21, 2008
The Secret Millionaire
Channel 4, Tuesday, August 19

The Secret Millionaire is a strangely Dickensian concept. Find a tycoon, parachute him into a poverty-stricken area to spend time undercover working with the deserving poor. Then, at the end of the programme, he rewards them with some of his own hard-earned cash.

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Classical Roman building

By Simon Round, August 15, 2008

Roman Abramovich's newest purchase may give him more trouble than even José Mourinho.

The Russian oligarch has won permission to create a £150 million property in Lowndes Square in Knightsbrige. However, Kensington and Chelsea Council has ordered Abramovich to use only classical materials in the construction of the eight bedroom "palace". There will also be noise controls.

Fortunately, Abramovich will have somewhere to lay his head while work is in progress. He owns a property in central London and also has dacha in Surrey.

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The Jewish cyber-soldiers

By Simon Round, August 15, 2008

First there was the Palmach and the Haganah, then the Israel Defence Force. Now, a new group has taken Jewish defence onto the web.

The Jewish Internet Defence Force , which claims to have 5,000 members, has mounted a campaign to wrest control of a viciously anti-Israel and antisemitic Facebook site, titled "Israel is not a Country".

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Vegas cop fights for beard

By Simon Round, August 15, 2008

A Federal judge has ruled that an observant Jewish policeman in Las Vegas can keep his beard. Detective Steve Riback had been informed by the las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department that the facial hair had to go.

Thirty-two-year-old Riback wore a beard and baseball cap while working as an undercover vice-detective but the dispute started when he was transferred to the Office of Quality Assurance, where he is not required to wear a uniform.

Riback bristled with indignation when ordered to shave off his beard and took the Police Department to court.

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Iranian swimmer sunk

By Simon Round, August 15, 2008

An Iranian swimmer refused to compete in a heat against an Israeli at the Beijing Olympics - or perhaps he was just feeling off-colour?

Mohammad Alirezaei pulled out of the 100-metre breast stroke race, which was also due to be contested by Israel's Tom Beeri. However, it was all a coincidence , according to an Iranian press report, which claimed Alirezaei had not been feeling well.

A nasty case of Zionitis, perhaps.

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How al Qaeda is imploding

By Simon Round, August 15, 2008

Analysis
Radio 4, Thursday August 8

The credit crunch is biting, fuel and food prices are sky-high, and recession seems just around the corner, so where is the good news? Well, the BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, came up with some strong evidence that Osama bin Laden's erstwhile colleagues in al Qaeda are attempting to undermine the organisation and causing it to lose support in the Islamist community. And news doesn't come much better than that.

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Jerry Springer: ‘I was a poor refugee’

By Simon Round, August 15, 2008

Jerry Springer was born in a London Tube station during a Nazi bombing raid. As a child he dreamt of driving the 102 around Finchley. That's until he moved to New York and became a talk-show celebrity


Hopefully, one day they will get around to putting up a blue plaque to mark Jerry Springer's place of birth. If they do, many JC readers might see it on their way to work because Springer, one of America's most famous faces, was born at East Finchley tube station in North London on a cold winter's night in 1944, during a Nazi bombing raid.

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The Olympics is the reality TV show of sport

By Simon Round, August 15, 2008

This week I've been thinking deeply about why I am unable to wrest my attention away from the Olympic Games for more than a few minutes at a time.

On the surface, there seems to be no particular reason. There isn't any cricket, the football tournament is a sideshow (there is no British team anyway), and the athletics, which I love, hasn't even started yet.

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Oops, left daughter behind

By Simon Round, August 8, 2008

We all know what it's like when you go on holiday - there's so much to take with you - passport, toothbrush, suncream etc - that it's easy to end up forgetting something. So let's lay off the poor parents who left their four-year-old daughter behind at Ben-Gurion Airport when they boarded a flight from Tel Aviv to Paris. After all, the unnamed Orthodox couple were late for their plane and in a terrible rush. They were carrying a large amount of luggage too - all of which they made sure accompanied the on board.

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Why eating outdoors is certainly no picnic

By Simon Round, August 8, 2008

There is much that is great about the English summer. You know the kind of things - long shadows cast by tall cricketers on endless summer evenings, the crack of leather on willow, strawberry sandwiches, cucumber and cream and the evocative sizzle of raindrops falling on a hot barbecue.

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Kabbalah, with free parking

By Simon Round, August 8, 2008

The Kabbalah Centre in midtown Manhattan is under attack - not for its religious practices but for its parking privileges. The centre, spiritual home of Madonna and other celebrities, has been issued 10 permits by the city authorities, which allows it to ignore restrictions outside its East 48th Street building.

Transportation Alternatives, a parking lobby group, has protested that the centre doesn't warrant special treatment, and most religious groups are usually allowed only one or two permits. But so far it has survived New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's crackdown.

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Coren still poles apart

By Simon Round, August 8, 2008

He's done it again. Last week, The Diary reported on how Giles Coren, The Times' restaurant critic and columnist, had annoyed Poles by accusing them of remaining in denial about their responsibility for the Holocaust.

In his latest column last Saturday, an unrepentant Coren responded to a critical letter from Polish ambassador Barbara Tuge-Erecinska by raising the Kielce pogrom of 1946, in which Polish Jews returning home after liberation from the camps were killed by Poles. That should keep the postman busy for another week.

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Knitters in a twist

By Simon Round, August 8, 2008

The American Anti Defamation League has got the needle over a recently published British knitting book which features an Adolf Hitler doll. The book, by Rachael Matthews, bizarrely includes instructions on knitting figures of historical dictators and has a picture of a Hitler doll adorning its cover. "It shows a profound failure by Ms Matthews to understand the horror of Hitler's Nazi machine," raged ADL national director Abraham H Foxman.

Well, it certainly seems a bit loopy.

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Jonathan Freedland: Why my alter-ego does fiction

By Simon Round, August 1, 2008

Sam Bourne, best-selling thriller writer, is in fact political journalist Jonathan Freedland. He tells us about his dual identity - and the relative freedom of novels

 

When you think of a thriller-writer called Sam Bourne, what image does the name conjure up? Perhaps a cross between Andy McNab and Frederick Forsyth, a hard-drinking ex-mercenary who has roughed it in equatorial Africa, maybe someone who is familiar with the sleazy backstreets of Moscow, London and New York.

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